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Who supplied my cheese?

Does anyone really know where their lunch comes from?  Should we care?

Wouldn’t it be nice if we could start recognizing the taste between cod caught in the Atlantic or the Pacific?  We could have an app that tells you which one you just ate.  We do this with wines today, why not fish or even lettuce.

Whenever we hear of a food safety recall, we are thrown momentarily into thinking about where our food comes from.  It becomes a topic for a couple of days but then it gets washed away by other headlines.  Where our lunch comes from should be a major concern for everyone.  Rather than being a reactive thought, we should be proactively using the information in our day to day life. 

Traceability systems are still far behind in most companies.  It has been a major issue to push through highly sophisticated monitoring solutions.  In reality it is because most of us don’t care.  Or put in a different way, we are unaware that we can careThe technology is ready, what are we waiting for?

We live in an age of information.  Today’s citizen of the world expects information to be readily available.  This is an evolution we cannot reverse.  Knowing which hoops the chicken had to jump through on its way to your table will be the norm in the near future.  The companies that get there first will attract more consumers and set the stage for the rest.

In a world of good traceability, there are of course food safety benefits.  If the consumer always knew where the food came from, they would pay attention to news from that source.  There would be a venue to report minor illnesses rather than only major outbreaks and recalls.  This would in effect improve the quality control of our food supply.  Who knows, it might improve efficiency of the workforce as a whole.  Who does not relate to being mysteriously mildly ill and sluggish from time to time.

If we choose to know where our food comes from, we are indirectly helping the environment.  Environmental scientists struggle today to put together information about food consumption.  There are simply too many puzzle pieces missing.  It is not because we do not have the tools to measure.  It is because the food passes through storage, processing and logistics companies that do not have to share this information.  Why do they not have to?  Because the consumer does not care enough.  With enhanced information, environmental scientists can calculate when we are over consuming or endangering critical resources.  Without complete data, a scientist is just a theorist.

Finally, we underestimate the power of the consumer vote.  You might only vote once every few years in a democratic society, but you are voting many times, every day in the marketplace.  What and from whom you buy stipulates what the stores will carry.  Sometimes picking the lowest price is not always best.  In fact, with information, most of us would pay more for a product we believe in.  It is important to have full knowledge rather than marketing slogans like, “Made locally” or from a certain country.  Those are not guarantees that the product is good for us.

We have tremendous power we are unaware of.  We have seen in politics that each vote is important in shaping world views and order.  This is the same for the marketplace.  Each time we purchase a product, we are voting for a better world.  Not having enough information, forces us to default to the lowest price. 

With the right information we can change the world.

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